Almanac Poetry: The New Testament


The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel, oil on canvas, by Rembrandt, 1661. [Source: Wikimedia Commons]


The New Testament


1. Before the Resurrection

The stone buildings in this land,
blocky and Middle Eastern,
are like a painted backdrop.
Roads flat and grey,
and scenes seem airless, dulled:
horses, camels, asses;
dark-skinned people in desert clothes.
What overrides is a sense
of sparseness,
as if viewing
events on a stage with minimal props.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
must have thought the stories
of this time and place
too important to be cluttered
with quotidian detail.
You distinctly feel
the colourlessness
and want of the decorative.



2. The Resurrection and After

Suddenly the New Testament landscape
is bright and airy.
The marvellous and strange occur
like a magical realist novel.
Some speak in tongues,
Mary is assumed into heaven.
People – Jesus, Lazarus –
rise from the dead.
With surprisingly little fanfare,
Christ disappears
from the world.
Pentecost Sunday,
the Holy Ghost
appears above the Apostles’ heads
in vivid tongues of flame.
Christianity is ready to roll,
its theatre the known world.




(Acknowledgements: first published in Orbis, UK, 2009; then in my second poetry collection, Lionheart Summer, Picaro Press, 2011 – reprinted by Ginninderra Press, 2018.)




Read more from Kevin Densley HERE

Kevin Densley’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE

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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Superb effort Kevin.

    Some years ago I had the good fortune to travel The Wadi Qelt. The road that traverses the superb old testament country between Jericho and Jerusalem. I still remember it vividly. We stood on a hill and took in the view, surrounded by a brown emptiness of deeply cut valleys and jagged hills and there, out of nowhere, came a kid (probably about 10) shepherding a small tribe of goats. It was straight out of the Bible.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your response, Dips.

    Yes, with regard to this Biblically-themed poem, climate and landscape are certainly central issues.

  3. I recall walking in sandals in Mediterranean countries – especially Greece and Turkey. It was hot, so the shade was a blessing. And cool water tasted very good. The dust was so old, so fine, and your feet got very dirty. I suddenly understood the washing of the feet so much better. It was straight out of the Bible.

    Intriguing poem Kevin.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, JTH, for your interesting comments – I love their vivid quality … concerning the heat … the shade being a ‘blessing (particularly apt word!)’ … the ‘cool water’ … the nature of the dust … the imagery of the washing of the feet. I’m so pleased the poem evoked such things for you.

  5. I should also mention that at one ancient site in Greece, I spotted the unmistakable Volleys tread in the dust. That was a transcendent moment.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Ah, JTH, the sacred then the profane!

  7. Peter Temple is my favourite author (with John LeCarre). I love the long rambling narrative with lots of internal reflection by the main protagonist. Plot is interesting but always seems secondary to the inner dialogue.
    After reading a few Temple’s I got the common structure which always ramped up the action with a big bang crash shoot ’em up finale (dare I say “denouement”). When I read others I’d get 80% in and think “it’s time for the gunfight”. Like it was the only way of bringing the story to a conclusion.
    Now I know where he got the idea from. A literary device as old as (recorded) time.
    Lovely poem. Vivid images. Clever structure.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your kind words, PB.

    I find your comments highly interesting, as always.

    And you were spot on to bring up the issue of narrative itself, as the notion of the New Testament in narrative terms was very much on my mind as I wrote the poem.

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